|main ... archive ... Scribbles ... directory ... about||Last modified on 8/6/08; 9:24:28 AM Central|
News, Pointers & Commentary Archive: June 1998
|29 June 1998||"The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life."|
Too funny for words: Been out of town for a few days & I have to get to work, but I can't let this go by. Microsoft is being sued because someone else owns the rights to the name "Internet Explorer". The trademark owner has had to go out of business because of his legal bills, but he is not giving up or agreeing to be bought off.
(...thus continuing the operating-system-as-sugar-water equivalence that Microsoft seems to be fond of using as a metaphor.)
- Microsoft faces fiasco for rights to browser name [Wall Street Journal via MSNBC]
"[In response, Microsoft] makes the surprising claim that the name of one of its best-known and most important strategic products, which has a huge marketing budget and is at the center of the current antitrust case brought against Microsoft by the Justice Department, is just a common and descriptive name that can't be trademarked. It's just a cola, Microsoft says, not Coke."
I shall now proceed to point out the obvious: if the roles were reversed and Microsoft had succeeded in trademarking the name "Internet Explorer", the argument that it's a generic phrase would fall on deaf ears at Microsoft.
- lively Slashdot discussion including a possible effort to help out the trademark owner financially.
And even more obvious is the doubletalk Microsoft is trying to foist off on the court. "Internet Explorer" is NOT a generic name for a web browser, "web browser" is a generic name for a web browser. Duh.
Opera and Netscape Navigator do not refer to themselves as Internet explorers. QED.
Have fun in court, kids.
|25 June 1998||Software without hardware is an idea. Hardware without software is a space heater.|
Read Ben Stein's Interview. Watch Ben Stein's Show. Buy Ben Stein's Book? Ben Stein (of "Win Ben Stein's Money") has written a book about being a good dad, which he considers the most important and rewarding thing a man can do with his time."I'm often on business shows and people say to me, 'Well blah blah blah, what's a good investment now?' And I always say, 'The good investment is to go home from work early and spend the afternoon throwing a ball around with your son. That's a really good investment.' The returns on it are tax-free. There's no possibility that you'll lose on it. And your son will reap enormous benefits from it."It's refreshing to hear a (somewhat) famous person discount his fame, fortune and career and instead look at things from a very down-to-earth perspective.
Also on CNN: A big excerpt from the first chapter of George Will's new baseball book:"Since 1949 the Cubs have lost more than 2,200 games. That's more than 6,000 hours of losing baseball. They never made me like losing, but they gave me superb training for 1964 when I cast my first vote for president, for Barry Goldwater."Entertaining stuff; recommended.
I had 140 e-mails today (combined work and personal and a heavy day on the mailing lists). And about 10 phone calls. And maybe 6 pieces of physical mail. And I'm still not up to the average??:
|24 June 1998||"The difference between practice and theory in practice is always greater than the difference between practice and theory in theory."|
More, please: This is the kind of thing I'd like to see happen more around college campuses in particular, but really I'd like to see it everywhere.
The proprietor of an ice cream shop (a former physicist) posts a fairly difficult problem in his shop. If you solve it, you get a free ice cream cone. People come from all over to try their hand at it, and many fail but (I'm sure) learn something in the process.
- Physicist offers free sundaes [SJ Merc]
Yes, it puts an artificial value on certain kinds of knowledge and thinking ability...but I'd like to see more places do that sort of thing if only to make up (even a little) for the artificial value placed on certain physical abilities.
- The World Wide Web as Social Hypertext by Tom Erickson
"Personal pages and the world wide web are not being used to 'publish information;' they are being used to construct identity--useful information is just a side effect. A personal page is a carefully constructed portrayal of a person."The author posits that the growth in the number of personal pages is giving rise to an alternative way of finding information:"Rather than composing queries for search engines or going to likely places to browse, something that many ordinary users find foreign and daunting, people can instead pose the question: Who would know? Or who would know someone who would know? Navigating from one personal page to another we suddenly have a new sort of search strategy, although this sort of social navigation is new only in the context of computer networks--it is, of course, an old and familiar way of finding things out in the real world."Given that perusing someone's pages doesn't impose a significant cost on them or an obligation on you, he argues that it's actually in some ways more efficient than other ways of networking and information gathering.
Interesting stuff. Recommended reading.
Fun comic strips from Carol Lay:
Follow the saga of Frontier's transition to a commercial product:
- Transitioning to Frontier 5.1 [Userland]
|23 June 1998||"Friends long absent are coming back to you."|
--Fortune cookie I had Saturday...is there something I don't know?
NPR Fans: There's a cool interview with and profile of the estimable Terry Gross (you know, Fresh Air) on Salon:
- Turning the tables on Terry Gross [Salon], 2 pages
The people she keeps company with every day on her show -- musicians, actors, playwrights, authors, politicians -- rarely come face-to-face with her. "They can't expect a smile or a nod to convey anything to me," she says. "Anything we need to convey to each other has to be in the voice, so the listener will hear it too. In the best of all possible worlds, our voices will carry as much information as possible because it's the only dimension we have to communicate."
What keeps Gross going at such a frenetic pace, what keeps her show, well, fresh after 25 years? "There are some things we don't really tire of -- like food, good conversation," she says. "A good mind is something that never loses its value, no matter how many good minds you have the luxury of encountering."
Capsule Review: X-Files/Fuzzy Be the Future: I've been watching the TV show fairly regularly this year, and was hoping for more answers from the movie than I got; I definitely got the feeling (as some reviewers did; was I poisoned by reading them?) that we were just being strung along yet again.
Where did the big batch of bees go? Has the Plan already started? Why exactly are the Bunch of Sinister Guys still cooperating with the aliens? Why were they in the first place? How did S&M get back to civilization? And so forth.
If you're not already a fan of the show, don't bother; it's essentially a prequel to season 6 and you'll be left wanting more than you got. If you *are* a fan, be warned that it gets extra creepy (I'm not really into creepy, and could have easily done without all the grossness). Overall grade: C.
To those following the progress of Rhapsody/MacOS X: a Bay Area Next Group Meeting summary with a few more details on the underpinnings of OS X (I wish they'd post more of these reports and/or post them sooner):
|21 June 1998||"We've only played 3 songs and we've been on stage 44 minutes!"|
--Jian Ghomeshi of Moxy Fruvous, after much goofy improvisation by the band.
Capsule Review: Saw 6 Days 7 Nights on Friday and liked it a lot. The women get to ogle Harrison Ford, the men get to ogle Anne Heche, and there's enough witty dialogue to make you ignore any plot holes. Thumbs up if you're in the mood for some light entertainment.
I don't think this has happened to me, but it certainly could someday:
One solution is not to write such horrible things in your e-mails, no matter who they're to. I admit it takes restraint, but it can be worth it in the long run.
- The Freudian e-mail [Salon]
"Who hasn't experienced the sudden cessation of heartbeat, the loud whoosh as the air leaves the lungs, the slow creep of blood to the face as you realize that your message is on its way to the one person who should never, ever see it? E-mail brings a whole new dimension to the embarrassment of having the object of your derision overhear your mocking remarks."
Sudden doubt: It's been known for some time that Userland was going to take Frontier 5 commercial. Well, I got this e-mail on Thursday and I have to say, "+2"WOW those prices are high -- $299.88/year for personal use, $899.88/year for commercial use, and $5999.88/year for "partners". Ack! And that's the lower introductory price? Ack!
I distinctly remember them saying a while ago that some version of Frontier would remain free, but that wasn't mentioned in the announcement. Will there be a way to use 5.1 for free?
Assuming there's not, which is the last free version? We've been in the beta process for version 5.0.2 for some time; is that now not going to be released in favor of the 'pay' version, 5.1? Should I consider the last 5.0.2 beta 'final'?
I think some clarification is in order.
(And I must also object to the annoying $.99 trick Userland is pulling. If you're going to charge us $25/month, have the guts to print $25, not $24.99. I'd rather pay the extra $0.12 a year than be insulted with the attempt to mislead me with a price that at first glance looks lower than it is. Attempting to trick the customer is not good service and not respect for the customer.)
Am I willing to pay that much to use the new Frontier? Am I willing to have my workplace pay that much for Frontier, or will I look for other alternatives, or will I just commit to using the last free version forever? It all depends on what Userland says in the next little while, I guess.
|18 June 1998||Cliff Notes for Physics: Things move. The rest is math.|
Ringo Starr guest-starred in Cerebus this month, so it was strangely serendipitous to run across this interview with him:
Related to this: Jakob Nielsen's latest usability column, on Fighting Linkrot.
No more Babylon 5: ...for a while, anyway. According to the Lurker's Guide (excellent site, btw) the next new episode will be shown at the end of October (with the exception of a new TV movie on July 19th). Lots of time to wait & wonder about the cliffhanger...I'm most worried about Lennier. We know Delenn gets out of this alive, but...?
Gotta run. Früvous calls!
|15 June 1998||"To understand recursion, you need to understand recursion."|
Thursday! Thursday! Thursday! Moxy Früvous, the best live band I've yet seen, will be singing at the Side Door, 2005 Locust St (St. Louis, of course). Doors open at 8:30pm, and 2 opening bands will play before Früvous appears at roughly 11pm. Hoo ha!
I've been spending a fair amount of time lately lurking at slashdot.org, a sort of gathering-place for techies to get together and observe, comment on and philosophize about news of the day. Salon just ran a background piece on it; makes for good reading:
The one thing I don't like about /. (the shorthand name for it) is the tendency of posters to fall into typical flaming behaviors: ad hominem attacks, over-generalization about entire groups of people, garden variety intelligence-related insults, etc. This sort of thing is par for the course with Net discussions, however, and the signal-to-noise ratio is still relatively high. It's a good site; I recommend stopping by if you're into tech issues.
- Geek central [Salon]
Jon Katz on the Larry Sanders finale:
I would simply amend that to read 'one of the best shows on television'. Larry Sanders is nothing like Homicide, which is nothing like Babylon 5, which is nothing like M*A*S*H or Northern Exposure or The Dick Van Dyke Show, etc... Each has its own unique brilliance -- why make it a contest (and invite knee-jerk responses of "no way, man, it was Manimal!") with your choice of words?
- A Proper Farewell to "Larry Sanders" [Synapse]
"The genius of Garry Shandling's The Larry Sanders Show, which ended its brilliant six-year run on HBO last week, was that it was one of the very few places in all of mainstream media to look honestly at what celebrity means rather than to simply exploit stardom as a marketing tool. It was the best show on television."
|14 June 1998||"It's 30 cents cheaper to get a hamburger Happy Meal, and to order an additional cheeseburger, than to order a cheeseburger Happy Meal, and to order an additional hamburger. Since the constituent elements are identical, I don't have any rational explanation for this."|
The above line is taken from the latest installment of carlmail, a newsletter of random frequency by the sometimes funny, sometimes profound, sometimes incomprehensible Carl Steadman.
To see back issues of carlmail, go to http://rhumba.pair.com/carl/mail/archive.cgi
To sign up for the newsletter, go to http://rhumba.pair.com/carl/mail/
Poking around on the net Friday while I should have been working, I found myself lost in the Rolling Stone archives for vast lengths of time. Gems I unearthed, for your viewing pleasure (INPO):
- Tom Hanks by Mark Seliger
- Johnny Carson and David Letterman in the same shot, ironic given later events
- Phil Collins' only cover, when he had a little more hair
- Madonna in my favorite era of hers
- Steve Martin, just as he is
- Star Wars at the Beach, with Leia in the RotJ prisoner bikini
- Simon & Garfunkel around the time of their reunion
- Steve Martin as art by Annie Leibovitz
- Steve Martin as wild & crazy guy
- Harrison Ford as Dr. Jones, named after the family dog
- Jack Nicholson in the snow, looking thrilled
- Luke, Leia, Han and Lando in everyday earth attire
- The Buh-luuuuuuues Brothahs
- Maurice Sendak's Wild Things, a new illustration by the man himself
- Michelle Pfeiffer
- The Seinfeld Four in leather
- Janet Jackson in her, uh, memorable cover pose
- Jennifer Aniston, ditto
- Mulder & Scully, together at last
- Gillian Anderson solo as a damsel in distress
Saw The Truman Show. A+. See it!
|9 June 1998||"The fact that it works is immaterial."|
A New Steve's Scribble: Whew! Could the computing world be slowing down?
I spent a delicious six hours Sunday devouring Anne McCaffrey's The Masterharper of Pern. Couldn't put it down once I started. Highly recommended for any fans of the Pern books; it covers Robinton's life from birth until the first novel in the series, Dragonflight, so it touches on a few familiar events (e.g. F'lar vs. Fax) but is mostly concerned with new, unfamiliar events.
It's not the first Pern book one should read, in case anyone out there would like to start. Either Dragonsinger or Dragonflight is a better initial book to try.
|4 June 1998||"Who are you?"|
"I'm the Milky Way Man. And I know everything."
--Matthew Broderick ("Sam") in Addicted to Love
If you read only one thing today, make it this:
How would you like to receive your ATM PIN number printed in plain view on a postcard in your physical mailbox, sent by someone other than your bank? This incident was analogous...
- Password spamming by Andrew Leonard [Salon]"Judging by the e-mail I've received since first publishing this story, few people reacted warmly to the sight of their own password, in plain text, sent to them by a complete stranger."
Incisive! There's a word I don't find enough good reasons to use. Here's a good one: incisive analysis by Steven Johnson of why Seinfeld was such a big success and why it will continue to be one (in syndication):
- No Hugging, Some Learning [Feed]"The wise-ass reference to some peripheral aspect of daily life -- 'what is the deal with those airplane peanuts?' -- doesn't have a chance of working unless the audience itself participates in the same daily routines. Before very recently, the stuff of everyday life simply wasn't standardized enough to sustain such humor ... The marginalia of everyday life is now similar enough to build an entire comic repertoire around it."
"Works better...Plays better...Resistance...futile...": Randy Whitted takes a critical look at the Windows 98 marketing slogan and wonders how anyone will be taken in (plus, he breaks the law, right there at the top of his column!):
- That Ain't Workin' [TechWeb]
More on P.H.: I've pointed to writings by David Shenk before; I like how he writes. Here he paints a picture of Phil Hartman's M.O. as a funhouse mirror of modern vanity, similar (in my mind) to John Cleese's specialty -- insane (or simply too-tightly-wound) authority figures.
Capsule Review: I've been discovering (many years late) the work of the band Madness ("Our House" is probably the only song of theirs you'd have heard) and am enjoying it a lot - great horn arrangements, British accents, swinging peppy stuff. ("NIGHT BOAT TO CAIROOOOO!")
I recommend their albums with one caveat: don't go near the album "Mad Not Mad". It's very unrepresentative of them, from the seriousness of the cover shot to the 80s keyboards (instead of wall-to-wall horns) to the lack of any lively tempos. I recommend trying any of their albums except that one.
I've been staying up late doping my way through WebObjects -- it's hard trying to learn fairly hardcore object-oriented programming while also trying to sight-read (and speak) Java without having tried either before now. But I'm making progress.
Still, as a consequence, the time I can spend on this page has gone down...there may be a few more hiatuses (hiati?) in the coming days as I go into heads-down mode. Wish me luck.
|1 June 1998||"There is no such thing as a 'self-made' man. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success."|
--George Matthew Adams
A couple of goodies from Salon: First, a nice summary of Phil Hartman's career and accomplishments:
And a good summation of "The Larry Sanders Show"'s impact and value:
- Phil Hartman, 1948-1998 [Salon]
- When Garry Met Larry [Salon]
My only MS-DOJ link all week:
- Prices May Affect Microsoft Case [Washington Post]
I thought coerced speech was frowned on: Why is this an issue? If this girl doesn't wish to take part in a school's daily U! S! A! ritual, it seems unAmerican to force her to:
George Will came to speak at WU's graduation ceremony; while he went pretty far afield in his remarks (why additional aid to the poor will do no good, etc.), he had a number of entertaining commencement-speech-style things to say as well. I found this Amazon interview with him the other day; lots of baseball talk, with some generally funny stuff too. Worth a visit:
- A Pundit's Bunt Hits [Amazon]
What science is for: Apparently 90% of lightning strikes occur over land due to stronger convection. It's true that I can't personally use that information, but still it's cool to know...